In politics, what goes around comes around. Last week Randy Brock, the GOP candidate for governor, attacked Peter Shumlin for spending too little time on the job. This week, the Vermont Democratic Party is slamming Brock for the same thing.
The accusation comes on the heels of Brock’s allegation that his opponent, incumbent Democrat Peter Shumlin has been out of state four months out of the 21 months he’s served as governor.
The Vermont Democratic Party says Brock only worked 31 percent of the time when he served as state auditor in 2005 and 2006. The party based its assertion on official calendars and a story from the Burlington Free Press.
Brock disputes that figure as “baseless and without foundation.” He said just because his official calendar was blank doesn’t mean he wasn’t working.
Official calendars released to then Progressive candidate for auditor Martha Abbott in October 2006 showed the following breakdown for Brock’s time from January 2005 to September 2006, according to her calculations:
20 percent of the time, Brock was not at work;
38 percent of the time, there was no indication of Brock’s activities;
11 percent of time, he was making a public appearance;
31 percent of time, he was doing job-related work.
“If I don’t have an appointment, it doesn’t mean that I’m gone,” Brock said. He believed the stated 20 percent of his time away from work could include weekends, noting also that he didn’t attend all of his scheduled public conferences outside Vermont.
Brock added that he didn’t spend much time at his second home in Florida as state auditor, aside from an “occasional long weekend.”
In a statement, Vermont Democratic Party Chair Jake Perkinson called Brock’s criticism of Gov. Shumlin’s months away from Vermont “a desperate attempt to get attention,” given that Brock “spent the majority of his time either working remotely or not at all.”
Brock couldn’t specify an appropriate standard for how much time he thought a governor should spend within state borders, saying that the public could determine a reasonable ratio. But he reiterated that as governor, he’d probably spend more time in Vermont. He described Shumlin’s four-month absence as an “inexcusable amount of time.”
Records obtained from the Vermont State Archives and Records Administration show that former Gov. Jim Douglas spent about 36 days out of Vermont on official business in his first 21 months of office, compared to Shumlin’s 44 days on official business over the same timeframe.
Douglas’ time away on non-official, personal, and weekend travel isn’t included in the archival material. Shumlin spent 75 days outside Vermont on non-official business.
VTDigger received Douglas’ weekly public schedules, tallying any day with one event outside Vermont, including days spent traveling to and from out-of-state events. Many of Douglas’ days away were spent at National Governor’s Association events, and in New England generally.
Similar records were not immediately available for former Gov. Howard Dean, as the only Dean schedules the state archives possess are sealed under executive privilege until Jan. 10, 2013, according to state archivist Scott Reilly.
“Anyone seeking to access these particular records prior to that date would need to obtain written authorization from Gov. Dean to view the records,” Reilly continued. While governors’ public schedules are public records, their detailed daily schedules of private and personal meetings, including items like daily staff briefings, are not public.
It’s unclear whether the Dean schedules which VSARA owns now were originally public or private schedules, but all are sealed under executive privilege. Some records may have been lost or misplaced in the initial transfer from Dean’s administration to VSARA years ago.
Three local newspapers, the Rutland Herald, the Montpelier Times-Argus, and Seven Days, sued Dean in January 2002 for access to his daily schedules. They wanted to know how much time he dedicated to his presidential bid.
The newspapers’ lawyer for the case, Bob Hemley, told VTDigger: “What was at issue was access to his schedule, because we were trying to determine how much time he spent in state and how much time he spent traveling.” Dean also faced a December 2003 suit from Washington, D.C., conservative foundation Judicial Watch, which sought to unseal his administration’s records.